2017/04/10: Six Minutes on the True Purpose of University Education
[Interviewer]: Dr Peterson, you’ve mentioned these ideas of responsibility, of virtue, of respect. You’ve, I think, detailed what you think students shouldn’t do in these examples of like, protests and these examples of certain types of activist tactics.
Really, man, you’ve got this four year period that has been carved out of your lives by society. It’s given you an identity, like a high quality identity, and freedom at the same time - and you’re not gonna get that again in your life.
You’ve got a respectable identity: University Student. And complete freedom associated with that, or as near as you’re ever gonna get. And you’ve got these unbelievable libraries that are full of the writings of people who are intelligent and articulate beyond comprehension.
And you can go there and you can learn all this…and you might think, well, “why should you learn it?” Well, you learn it to get a job, or you learn it to get good grades, or you learn it to get a degree…and that’s all nonsense. It’s nonsense.
The reason that you come to university to be educated is because there is nothing more powerful that someone who is articulate and who can think and speak. It’s power, and I mean power of the best sort: It’s authority and influence and respectability and competence.
And better than that, when you win everything, everyone around you wins too. Because to transform yourself into, let’s consider your transformation into something approximating the Logos, it means you shine a light on the whole world.
Well there’s nothing more exciting to do than that, there’s nothing better you can possibly do. And to think that you’re coming to university to be trained to have a job, it’s like, “Great, that’s a hell of a lot better than to be unemployed and covered with cheeto dust while you’re snacking away in front of your video game in the basement”, but it’s not…and I don’t have anything against video games by the way…
I know what Harvard students are like - I taught here for 5 years . You people are spectacular, you’re spectacular. You’re all capable of being world beaters. You transform yourself into something that’s articulated, and sensible, and grounded in history, and knowledgeable and wise, you can do anything you want, and hopefully anything you want for good; because if you have any sense, everything you wanna do would be for the good, because there’s nothing more compelling, or meaningful, or or useful in combating the tragedy of life than to than to struggle with all your soul on behalf of the good!
And the universities have forgotten that. It’s why everyone’s bailing out of the humanities. And they should - the humanities are corrupt. And they’re corrupt because they’re not telling students this. It’s so bloody obvious.
And the whole society around you has labored for thousands of years to provide every single one of you with this spectacular opportunity that you have while you’re undergraduates and graduate students here.
Everyone’s just praying that you would come here and manifest everything that you could manifest! And that’s what you should be doing, instead of waving placards and complaining about how you’re oppressed, for God’s sake!
Would you trade it? Would you trade your youth for that? If you factor age out of the economic equation, things look a lot different. Well, of course older people have more money; If they have any sense they’ve been collecting it for their whole life. Is that somehow unfair?
I just don’t understand what’s happened to the universities. I can’t believe that you’re not told when you come, the first day, “Look, man, you’re here on a heroic mission.” “You’re going to take your capacity to articulate yourself to levels that are undreamed of.” “You’re going to come out of here unstoppable. You’re going to be able to do anything you want.”
It’s like, that’s what you’re here for. Instead, you’re taught that, “Well, you know, the world’s a pretty oppressive place and you’re probably the bottom of the victim pile, and there’s virtually nothing you can do about it except ‘deconstruct the patriarchy’ “ and it’s so weak-kneed and so pathetic that universities should be embarrassed that that’s what they’re peddling to students.
And that’s a terrible thing for someone like me to say, because I do believe that being articulated and educated in the highest possible manner…there’s nothing that’s better for you and for society. Why have the universities forgotten this?! Well, that’s post-modern neo-Marxism for you, you know.